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6 Steam Troubleshooting Tips

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Steam is generally pretty stable, but every now and then you’ll run into a problem. This guide gives solutions to common problems you’ll encounter in Steam, from games crashing or not working properly to Steam failing to launch.

If none of these solutions helps, try Googling the problem – you may have run into a game-specific problem with a game-specific solution or just a more obscure Steam bug.

Validate Game Caches

If a game fails to load, crashes as soon as it loads, or crashes when you reach a specific level, your game’s files may be corrupted. Corrupted files can also cause a multitude of other odd game bugs. To fix corrupted game files, you can have Steam validate the game’s cache on your system. Steam will examine the game’s files and – if any problems are detected – will re-download the corrupted files from Steam’s servers.

To validate a game’s cache, right-click the game in your Steam library and select Properties. In the properties window, click the Local Files tab and click the Verify Integrity of Game Cache button.

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Delete ClientRegistry.blob

If Steam itself is failing to launch or you still experience odd issues with games not working properly, you might want to try deleting your ClientRegistry.blob file. After deleting this file, you’ll have to log back into Steam and other local settings will also be lost – for example, you’ll have to re-categorize your games. You’ll find this file in your Steam directory – C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam by default. Be sure to close Steam completely (click the Steam menu at the top of the Steam window and select Exit) before deleting this file.

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Change Download Server

Steam periodically detects the closest download server to you. However, these download servers can become overloaded – if games are downloading slowly, you may want to change your download server. You can view each download server’s load on the Steam Content Server Status page. Be sure to choose one reasonably nearby.

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To change your download server, click the Steam menu and select Settings. From the Settings window, click the Downloads + Cloud tab and select a different server from the Download region box.

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You’ll have to restart Steam after changing this setting.

Set CPU Affinity

Some older games don’t play nice with multiple CPU cores on modern computers. Common symptoms include glitchy, jumpy animations and the animations playing too fast – the game’s animations may even be out of sync with the audio. You can tell Windows to run on the game on only one CPU core to solve this problem – this is referred to as setting the game’s CPU affinity.

The easiest way to do this is by launching a game, alt-tabbing out, opening the task manager, right-clicking the game’s process on the Processes tab and using the Set Affinity option. However, this may not always solve the problem – if the problem has already started occurring, the gameplay may be glitchy until you relaunch the game.

One trick you can use is setting Steam.exe’s CPU affinity instead – when you launch the game through Steam, it will inherit Steam’s CPU affinity and launch with the correct CPU affinity. Right-click your taskbar and select Start Task Manager to open the task manager.

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Be sure to change Steam’s CPU affinity back to the default – using all cores – before launching a demanding, modern game. Windows doesn’t “save” CPU affinity between sessions – when you close Steam and reopen it, it will use its default CPU affinity settings.

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Disable Steam Overlay

Some old games may also have graphical issues with Steam’s in-game overlay – the screen that appears when you press Shift+Tab while in a game. You can disable the overlay for an individual game by right-clicking the game in your Steam library, selecting Properties, and unchecking the Enable Steam Community In-Game check box.

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Disable Compatibility Mode

Windows automatically assigns compatibility mode settings to certain programs – including Steam – when they crash. If Steam detects it’s running in compatibility mode, you’ll see a message like this one:

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If you right-click the Steam shortcut and select Properties, you won’t see any compatibility settings being applied:

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Windows has hidden the compatibility mode setting it applied – you can only remove it from the registry. First, launch the registry editor by clicking Start, typing Regedit into the Start menu, and pressing Enter. Browse to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags\Layers key in the registry editor and delete any values associated with Steam.

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Steam should now launch without any compatibility mode errors.


Do you have other troubleshooting tips to share? Leave a comment and let us know about them.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/10/12

Comments (21)

  1. wunnle

    C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam by default? I wasn’t aware of 64 bit Windows is that mainstream.

  2. Chris

    What is steam for?

  3. Andrew S

    How about this gem, I use steam off my laptop, but I regularly go to a friends house, who hasnt been able to get internet. I have noticed that if I try to sign into steam in offline mode, 9 times out of ten itll bug out, upon realising it is unable to connect, (no, really?)tell me as much and just hang, not close, hang. This also happens when during that one time, I try to open a game like team fortress or gmod.
    Anything short of singing in when im at home or praying to the high god Gabe doesnt seem to work, anyone figured something out?

  4. Roy

    I have 2 very good games bought for me that requires Steam. I will not play them as I do not like being forced to use Steam.
    I do not like steam and its spyware, I will never run a game requiring it so Games producers should note as there are many who are of like mind.
    The worst thing to happen to PC games and it is contributing to the demise of PC gaming.

  5. DW

    We’ve been using 64bit windows versions for over half a decade now, where have you been?
    This is a good reference point for troubleshooting STEAM Client, thanks for spreading the info, DW. SA-IT

  6. motoki

    How is it spyware? Where is the proof in that statement?

    If someone doesn’t want to use it that’s fine but making false statements about Steam or declaring it the death of PC gaming (really? Millions of people would disagree) is rather extreme.

    If you don’t like it move on and go play on consoles. I happen to enjoy Steam, as do many other people.

  7. Bill M.

    I agree somewhat with Roy. If you are not an online player like myself Steam is a pain.
    I think for the big bucks being charged for games, you should have the option
    of Steam/No steam. Then we can move on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. keltari

    I dont understand why some people (not many) have such an issue with Steam.

    Steam is great!

    It allows you access to all your Steam purchased games on any PC or Mac (if a Mac version of the game is available) anywhere in the world. Heck, installing Steam through Wine allows many of the Windows games to be played on Linux or Mac (and even other OSs). Many of the games support Steam Cloud saves, meaning if you play your game on one computer and move to another, you pick up at the last save. Games are automatically kept updated with patches. There are no more boxes, manuals, discs, etc, to keep track of. Its all available through Steam. Steam has lots of sales. You can often preorder new games for a few bucks less and even get older games for as little at $2.

    My first two encounters with Steam annoyed me. I bought two games through a retail outlet – meaning off the shelf boxed games – and I was annoyed the DVD came with the Steam client. That meant you had to download the game. But since then, I havent bought a boxed game since. I have used nothing but Steam, or from other digital download sources (GoG, D2D, Origin).

    Steam has nothing but Pros and no Cons.

    The only negative is that you would think that the price of some games would be cheaper, since there is no retail packaging, but Steam doesnt set the initial retail price, the publisher does.

  9. keltari

    @wunnle – Pretty much any computer sold in the last 6+ years is 64 bit. The only reason why 32 bit OSs still exist is the slow rate people are upgrading their PCs. 64 bit processors were mainstream before 64 bit OSs. Many manufacturers sold computers with 64 bit procs, but installed 32 bit OSs. Microsoft originally stated Windows 7 to be 64 bit only, but since some people – typically older generations and non tech oriented people – dont upgrade their PCs, they realized that was going to hurt their sales and reversed that decision.

  10. YB

    Great article as usual. Only thing I would change is to rename the ClientRegistry.blob file to ClientRegistryold.blob and allow Steam to make a new file. That way, if there are problems, you can just go rename it back to ClientRegistry.blob

  11. Nathan J.

    Steam has some connection/security issues (I shouldn’t have to check my email to get a code to sign in, that’s just asinine) but when it works, Steam is pretty cool. It’s what Xbox Live should be. You’ve got the buddy list and achievements, but not the stupid “bloop” sound, or cartoon avatars, or ads shoving crap you don’t care about down your throat, and no $60/year fee, either. On top of that you get a (n admittedly crappy) browser you can access inside games, since so many games have features just to sell game guides, and a few other features.

    Steam isn’t the best thing to happen to PC gaming — that just might be Good Old Games (gog.com) — but Steam is not bad. Between the two of them, they just might save PC gaming. I think it’s funny that we have two Steam haters who hate it on principle, but with no valid or even weak reasons why. “I hate it… I won’t tell you why… I JUST DO…” Okay, great… but that means absolutely nothing to those of us who enjoy it. If you won’t explain why you may as well not state the opinion to start out with.

  12. PhantomTurtle

    For anyone who experienced a problem with steam not being able to connect to the internet. It is most likely because you have peerblock. For some reason I always started Peerblock before steam(maybe because the icon was next to the steam one) and steam never worked. Any ways don’t use Peerblock, it doesn’t really do much any ways.

  13. keltari

    @Nathan J. – Ive never had any issues with Steam. The email code is to verify the user after Steam is installed on a “new” machine. It sounds like something on your PC is causing it to believe its on a new machine.

  14. Nathan J.

    “Peerblock […] doesn’t really do much [anyway]”? Um… actually it does if you set it up right. ;) Although, you are right in that if PeerBlock is blocking Steam, it will prevent you from connecting. Since it’s not advisable to have unnecessary programs running while gaming, though, closing any download services (and PeerBlock) would not be inadvisable; in fact, that’s a good idea.

    @keltari: Not on my PC. My ISP offers dynamic DSL, so Steam is seeing me come from a different external IP every time. Xbox Live doesn’t have a problem with this. Steam should realize that static IP isn’t universal. I mean, I know why I’m getting the “new PC” prompts, I just think Steam should use another method to figure that out. Take my hardware and make a unique code out of it or something. IP is a poor way to do it.

  15. keltari

    @Nathan J. – Almost all ISPs assign home user’s IP by DHCP and could change any time the lease was up. Steam wouldnt, and doesnt, check for “new” PCs that way. I know my IP has changed and Steam hasnt had an issue. It definitely sounds like something on your PC is raising a flag for Steam, making it think its on a different PC. Have you tried posting in the Steam support forums? I know they

  16. Irish_IT

    Nice article! I am a huge fan of steam but the one glaring flaw that I have beef with is the fact that you cannot use offline mode unless your online (lol wut???) For some reason, steam felt it necessary for you to know when you go offline and set the setting accordingly (does that ever happen EVER???), instead of allowing steam to detect when you are offline and let you still play your games.

  17. Citrus Rain

    Googled “steam without online”
    This is the 2nd result: http%3A%2F%2Fforums.steampowered.com%2Fforums%2Fshowthread.php%3Ft%3D2641233&ei=IArWT8_yHLH26gHtxcWRAw&usg=AFQjCNEhd_fZxa6O-8uvb55FE_Lh-k6dTw&sig2=qak3NH2meJb3KCBuFmgfRA

    The one day I had an issue signing into steam. Found a list of antivirus software that hindered it. AVG was one of them, so I switched to Avast! and it worked.

    I don’t understand how it’s spyware. It knows alot less about me than any other software I use does.

    @Chris: Steam is a platform for computer games to be sold. Like Xbox Live Arcade or the Playstation store.

    Can’t wait for the Linux support! (Wine hasn’t been treating it very nicely. TF2 gets a black screen for the main menu.)

  18. Cris

    lol @ Roy stating Steam has spyware. I have been using Steam for as long as I can remember (when Counter-Strike 1.6 was beta right after the WON servers went down) and have never had a problem. I love the fact that I can install Steam on as many computers I can put my hands on and still be able to install my games and have no issues and sync my config files through Steam Cloud.

  19. Luis

    Ok, I downloaded Portal 2 on Steam and I played it after it was done installing, and then Microsoft Windows “detects” a problem with the game and shuts it off. And I treid your methods of the cache verification and I did it like 2 times and it wont work. What should I do?! :(

  20. Chris Hoffman

    @Luis

    Not sure — contact Steam support if all else fails! That’s part of what you pay for.

  21. lol

    i deleted all value related to steam where said to and steam still wont run

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